Tag Archive: professional development

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”- W.B. Yeats

As someone who has just graduated from college one of the hardest transitions that I already faced to some extent and am continuing to face now is making a smooth transition from being a student to becoming a teacher. This is a transition that happens gradually throughout your undergraduate career and then before you know it you are no longer a student and are finally a teacher. I found and am continuing to find that if you are not prepared this transition can hit you in the face and be a challenge. We spend at least 17 years of our lives being a student and then suddenly we find ourselves back in the classroom, but only this time we are on the other side. I believe there is a lot that we can be doing during our undergraduate studies  to help make a the transition from student to teacher a little smoother and more gradual.

Transitioning from Student to Teacher

One day you are sitting at a desk learning about how to become a successful teacher and then before you know it you are standing in front of a classroom and are responsible for teaching the students that sit in front of you. During my student teaching experience I found out that the transition from student to student teacher and then eventually to teacher is a challenge. Below are some suggestions that I found help to make this transition happen more smoothly.

  1. Get Inside the Classroom Early: I found that getting into the classroom as early as possible can help to make the transition from student to teacher easier. The more you get into the classroom the more you learn and the more you begin thinking like a teacher. While in the classroom you can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work as an educator. Also one of my biggest pieces of advice is when in the classroom don’t just sit there!! Be active, even if you don’t have the opportunity to actually teach walk around the room, help students if possible and ask questions. All of these things will begin transitioning you into the position of teacher.
  2. Start Building your Library: Begin building your library early on in your career so that you have some resources ready to go when you begin your first year teaching. Start collecting books, magazines journals, choral octavos, scores, recorders, anything that one day may be helpful in the classroom. If if you aren’t able to buy some of these things write down titles of pieces you hear or play that you like, keep a list of books that you have seen that you eventually wish to have etc. This way when you begin teaching you will have resources to start with and will know where to look to find more.
  3. Define Yourself as an Educator: Start defining yourself as an educator. Think about who you want to be as a future music teacher and make a plan of how you are going to get there. Also begin thinking about your future classroom, what would your ideal classroom look like, what will your discipline plan be etc. Not only will this help make the transition to becoming a teacher easier,  but it will also help to prepare you for job interviews. One of the most beneficial assignments for  me as an undergraduate was my final for elementary music methods. We were given a scenario where we were hired as the new music teacher. We were given a budget, materials we had, what was expected of us etc. The we had to plan out specific units, give a rough plan for the first few weeks of school, write how are classroom would be laid out, what we would use our budget for etc. This really helped to get us thinking about decisions that we will have to make as educators that we never had to think about as students.
  4. Think as a Teacher Instead of a Student: One of the biggest things you can begin doing is start thinking like a teacher instead of a student. Approach every situation with the eyes of a teacher. When observing in a classroom think about what you would do and how you would handle specific situations as the teacher. In ensemble rehearsals, stop just thinking like the student or performer. Put yourself in the directors shoes and think how you would run the rehearsal. Also begin listening with the ears of a teacher. Don’t just listen for your part, but begin listening for pitch errors, wrong notes, stylistic errors etc.
  5. Save Everything: Okay well maybe don’t save everything, but definitely save a lot of your handouts, books etc. Make sure to save all of your lesson plans and materials you mae as well. These are great resources to help you when you are first beginning as a teacher. You never know when this stuff may be helpful down the road. There were many times during student teaching the I referenced stuff from classes earlier in my undergraduate career or used lesson plans that I had created for some of my college courses. These resources can save you time and help you out when you are in a pinch.
  6. Dress More Professionally: I am sure you get sick of hearing this during your undergraduate career, but it is extremely important when stepping into the role of teacher. Begin dressing like a professional early on. Firs of all this helps people and students realize that you are a professional. This is especially important when in the classroom with high school students because you are only a few years older than them. Also starting to dress professionally early on helps to build your wardrobe. While this may seem silly, it is good to begin acquiring more professional clothing during your time as an undergraduate so you don’t have to get a completely new wardrobe right before you start student teaching.
  7. Make Outside Connections: Begin making connections with other people outside of your college, both of your age and older. Developing professional relationships can really help make the transition to becoming a teacher much easier because you have other people to ask questions to and bounce ideas from each other. Make connections with other undergraduates, music educators, other educators, professors etc. Of course with all the technology we have today this is extremely easy. Below are some resources that are great for undergraduates to connect with our music educators and undergraduates and some that have helped me over the past few years as I make this transition from student to teacher.
    1. Twitter and #Musedchat: Take advantage of the wonderful community of music educators and undergraduates to collaborate and communicate with.
    2. Music PLN: A wonderful site created by Dr. Joseph Pisano for music educators and undergraduates to collaborate. A great place to ask questions that you have while transitioning from student to teacher.
    3. Music Ed MajorA very helpful site created by Andy Zweibel for music education undergraduates. This is a great resource for music ed undergraduates to gain more knowledge about the field of music education and to communicate with each other about being a music education undergraduate.
    4. Future Music Educators: A wonderful sites created by Andrew Ritenour, a senior music education undergraduate as Grove City College. This site is geared specifically for music ed majors and covers a lot of topics that often aren’t covered in your courses as an undergraduate.
  8. Take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities: There are tons of opportunities available for undergraduates so take advantage of them now. Use your undergraduate experience as a time to learn as much about the profession as possible. Attend  workshops, conferences, seminars, subscribe to journals etc. The more you know and learn during your undergraduate career the easier your transition to being a teacher will be.
  9. Begin Working on Your Areas of Weakness: As students we are usually just worried about making it through our classes and doing the bare minimum. As future music teachers we need to realize that we have a huge calling ahead of us so we need to go above and beyond. Instead of just doing what is necessary to survive do more and work on your areas of weakness. For example if you can only play one or two instruments begin working on other secondary instruments to become proficient on them. Not only does improving our areas of weakness help us gain more knowledge and become better educators, but it also helps us become more marketable.
  10. Start the Job Process Early: I can’t stress enough how important this is. The job search process is extremely time-consuming and exhausting. Get a head start to help you transition easier and so that you don’t miss any job opportunities because you weren’t ready. While jobs aren’t often posted until the summer start getting all of your materials and standard applications ready to go so when the jobs do begin to open you can quickly gather your materials and send them.

While this is still a very tough transition I hope that the above tips and suggestions will help you to make this phase in your career a little smoother. While I am still very much in this transition phase as well, any comments or suggestions for transitioning from student to student teacher to teacher is very much appreciated. Stay tuned as I continue through this journey for more posts on transitioning to first year teaching.


“Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.”- Orrin Hatch

Where have the past 4 years gone? It seems like just yesterday I started college and began my journey towards becoming a music educator and now just a few days ago I walked across the stage and received my Bachelors of music degree. Now after a short four years I am finally ready to do what I truly have a passion for; teaching music. While the past four years have definitely been a challenge I have learned and grown more as future educator than I ever could have imagined. When I began this journey I never thought I would get to the point I am at now. Also, I never realized the opportunities that I would be given as an undergraduate especially at a small college. Through this journey I have found that whatever you put into your four years as an undergraduate is what you will get out of it. Over the past few days I have reflected upon my undergraduate experience and what I have learned throughout the past four years of my life. Below is some advice I would give to all music education undergraduates, regardless of your year, to help you make the most out of the college experience.

Advice for a Successful Undergraduate Career

  1. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity- I have found that it is extremely important to take advantage of every single opportunity that is given to you whether large or small. You never know when an opportunity could turn into something big. Also these opportunities help you to begin building your résumé and experiences. For example last year I was given the opportunity to be one of 15 Grove City College students to participate in the second ever #MusEdChat. I took advantage of this opportunity and because of that have gotten highly involved in the music professional learning network and the twitter network. Also without this opportunity I would have never started this blog. Taking advantage of these types of opportunities will help to shape you into the music educator that you want to become.
  2. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute-Many times I hear undergraduates pass up opportunities or don’t go to workshops because they say “I have time I am only an underclassman.” One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to get involved now. Don’t wait until your junior and senior year to start getting involved and taking advantage of opportunities because then it may be too late. It is never to early to start getting involved and start learning. One of my advisors always says “This is your profession (music education) so why wouldn’t you want to get involved from the start.” This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take advantage of opportunities towards the end of your undergraduate career, but you don’t have to wait until then to start.
  3. Enjoy Every Moment-  Enjoy every moment of this journey because it will fly by and be over before you can imagine. Being a music education major is very hard and challenging in many ways, but it is also an amazing experience. There will be days where you won’t enjoy everything you are doing, but make the most out of every moment and realize that each challenge you are face with is helping you to become a better educator. Enjoy every moment and take advantage of all the opportunities given to you during your undergraduate career, but don’t see this as the end. So many people have told me not to look forward to graduation because after that you just enter the ‘real world’.  Instead, I can’t wait to begin teaching so I can put to use what I have all ready learned and continue to learn more.
  4. Cherish Your Friendships-I know this sounds cheesy, but I honestly can say that the friendships you will make during your 4 years in college will be life-long friendships. The friendships I have made mean so much to me and I am so thankful for them. Also friends are great to go to for advice and pointers. There were countless times throughout my undergraduate career where I would go to my friends to ask them their opinion, seek advice, ask questions, or even just to talk. As I said being a music education major is a challenge so it is very important to have a strong group of friends that you can go to when times get rough.
  5. Get a Diversity of Experiences- We all have preferences of what we would like to teach when we finally graduate, but as music educators we are certified K-12. I have heard many music education undergraduates say ” I want to be a band director so choral conducting doesn’t apply to me” or something similar. I get very annoyed when I hear this because I believe we should learn as much about our profession as possible so we can be a well-rounded music educator. For example if you are an instrumentalist you should also be in a choir, observe general music classes, learn piano, and get comfortable singing. We never know where we may end up or what we may end up teaching. I have heard many stories of educators getting their first job in the area they wanted to teach the least. If we get as much experience as possible in all areas now it will make our transition into teaching easier. I also believe it is important for current educators to stay informed in the areas they aren’t teaching because you never know when your district may change your position. See my past posts Importance of Learning Secondary Instruments and I don’t Sing I am a band Director to read more of my ideas on this subject.
  6. Don’t View Anything as Pointless- Many times I have heard music undergraduates say the phrase “this is pointless” or “I am never going to use this information again.” I will admit I often caught myself saying the same things. I know there are many non-major classes we are required to take are many times pointless, but I have heard these phrases said for music classes such as solfeggio, guitar, piano, or education classes such as educational psychology. I have now learned that classes like these are not pointless and will once come in handy even if it doesn’t seem like it now. For example last year at one of my observation the teacher I observed talked about and asked me a lot of theorists such as Gardner and Vygotsky. She also asked me to play warm-ups for her elementary choir on the spot. This is when I realized that no music or education courses are pointless, it just make take a while till you need to use them.
  7. Your GPA Isn’t Everything–  Grades are important and you need to always try to do your best, but I believe it is necessary for all undergraduates to realize that there other things that are also important. Just because we get one bad grade or have a bad semester doesn’t mean that we can’t be a good teacher. Instead of putting so much focus on our grades we need to put emphasis on doing our best and taking advantage of every opportunity we are given to help us become the best teacher possible.
  8. Always Have the Eyes of a Teacher- Throughout your undergraduate experience start to try and look at everything with the eye of a teacher instead of the eye of a student. It is important to begin changing your viewpoint as this will help to make your transition into student teaching much easier. For example when sitting in an ensemble rehearsal pay more attention to what the director does and how they handle different situations. Also begin to think how you would handle the situation if you were in the directors shoes.
  9. Soak Up Everything- The field of music education has so much information and as I said before a lot of it at times seems useless. As music education undergraduates we need to be sponges and absorb all the information we can so that one day when we need it we have it to reference. We can soak up all the information that is given to us daily by being attentive, taking notes, keeping handouts for future reference, and being an active participant not just an observer. The more information we acquire now as an undergraduate will help to make the transition from student to teacher a little easier.
  10. Professional Development- Even as an undergraduate it is never too early to start attending professional development events and workshops. Professional development events help undergraduates learn more information to help them become better educators. Joining organizations such as MENC and PMEA and attending events such as state workshops, Music Education Week, and the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic are some great examples of professional development. Many of the organizations and events also have workshops specifically geared for music education undergraduates which can help you better prepare for student teaching and your first teaching job.
  11. Save Everything- If you are like me throughout your undergraduate career you will receive so many papers and think that you will never need them again, but then one day 4 years done the road you will remember that a certain professor gave you a specific handout and you wish you could find it. I recommend to save anything that is pertinent to music education because you never know when it may be helpful. There were many times during student teaching where I pulled resources from many of my classes and was very glad that I saved them. My suggestion is to find a way of organizing that works for you and file all of your college papers into categories for quick reference in the future.
  12. Networking- All music education majors should begin to create a professional learning network during their undergraduate career. Network and collaboration are great way to gain knowledge and ask for advice from current educators. In today’s society networking is made simple through means such as Twitter,#MusEdChat, and MPLN.
  13. Advocacy- As undergraduates we don’t really see ourselves as advocates, but I believe that it is never too early to being advocating for music education, especially in today’s society. As music educators we will all have to be advocates at one point or another so we might as well start now. Even just learning about advocacy or spreading the word about the importance of music education is a great way to start. Check out my advocacy page for some great resources of how to get started.
  14. Make Mistakes- Teaching music is a very challenging job and there are is a lot for us to learn. I have learned that making mistakes is a good thing and that we should not be afraid to make them. Making mistakes helps us learn and shows us what we need to work to improve. I believe that some of the best educators are ones that aren’t afraid to make mistakes and then work towards fixing those mistakes.
  15. Never Stop Learning- I believe that as a teacher we should never stop learning even after we get our undergraduate degree. With the profession of education there is something that we can always be learning and trying in our classrooms. Use your undergraduate career to set you up for life long learning. One of my music professors always says “The day that we quit learning we should get out of the profession of education. As teachers we should be learning something new every single day.”

Being a music education major is definitely an amazing, but challenging experience just like the profession of teaching. My four years of college definitely changed my viewpoint on a lot of issues and helped me to find out who I am as an educator. I believe the biggest piece of advice I can give is to take advantage of every single opportunity that is given to you. This is the time to learn and grow as a future educator so don’t be afraid to take advantage of what you are given whether big or small because you never know where it may lead you in the future. While it may not seem like it now your undergraduate career will fly by and before you know it you will be like me, just graduated and reflecting on your undergraduate career. While I know everyone’s undergraduate experience is much different I hope the above tips and advice help you to have a wonderful undergraduate experience like mine. While I am writing this post as advice for undergraduates I also believe that a lot of the above ideas can be applied to other situations and can help music teachers of all ages. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions from your undergraduate experience or from your experience as an educator.

Every year in April I look forward to attending the PMEA State conference. This is my 5th year attending the conference either as a performer or future educator, and as always it did not disappoint. As usual the PMEA State conference which was held in Hersey PA from April 13th-16th was a success and provided attendees with countless amounts of invaluable information. I had an amazing time, learned a lot of information, and made a few connections with other music educators. Below is a review of some of the highlights from the event. Sorry that this review is coming so late, but with the end of student teaching everything got very hectic.

PMEA Live Blogs-

I was very honored to be a part of a five member team made up of Grove City College junior and senior education majors who live-blogged the conference. We live blogged a majority of the sessions that were offered at the conference and shared our experiences on Twitter. The live-blogs are currently in replay mode, so you can go back and read through our session notes for the sessions that interest you. You can find the live blogs on FutureMusicEucator.net. Overall, we felt the live-blogging was a great success and was a good way to help make the conference more web 2.0. It was a successful way to show how web 2.0 can be integrated into professional development. Again I want to thank Dr. Joseph Pisano and Grove City College for making this event possible!!

Informative Sessions-

As always there was a range of sessions offered at the conference. Everything from jazz, special education, band, orchestra, choir, general music, conducting, etc. was represented. As a future music teacher each year I try to attend as many sessions as  possible that cover a lot of areas so that I so that I receive a wealth of knowledge. My goal for PMEA every year is to be a sponge and soak up as much information as possible. Below are the sessions that I attend this year. Check out my live blog here to read about the sessions.

  • Selecting A Music Theory Textbook: A Guide for High School Teachers
  • Performance Practice in the Music Classroom
  • Beyond the Book: Making Music Visible
  • Jazz Workshop for Music Educators
  • Listening Journals in Middle School General Music
  • Orff Schulwerk: A Winning Way
  • Transfer of Learning: Students Can Perform the Sforzando Every Time
  • Quality Tried and Trued: Choral Repertoire for Singers of All Ages
  • Inclusion! Rethinking Success in the Music Classroom
  • Going Global: Google Earth as a Tool for Teaching World Music


There were also many impressive concerts for the attendees to listen to an learn from. Among them were jazz ensembles, saxophone quartets, wind ensembles etc. Unfortunately due to our rigorous live blogging schedule I was not able to attend many of the concerts, but I did attend the West Chester University Wind Ensemble directed by Andrew Yozviak, which was very impressive. Also Thursday evening of the conference I had the privilege to attend  a performance by “Pershing’s Own” US Army Band and the US Army Chorus. Excellent performers as well as entertainers these two service groups left the audience smiling the entire concert.


One of the overarching themes this year at PMEA was advocacy due to all the budget cuts that are taking place. As music educators advocacy is a term we hear often, but we often don’t do anything about it. Now more than ever we need to be proactive and begin advocating for our programs and to save music education in schools. It is not enough to just talk about advocacy with other music educators. We know the importance of music education. It is our job to advocate to the people in charge such as administration, school boards, and the government and let them know how important music is to our students. We have to fight for what we love and know is invaluable, and we have to do it now.
While at PMEA I got the opportunity to participate in an amazing music advocacy event. As past, present and future musicians, PMEA 2011 attendees gathered to sing “The Awakening” to advocate for music education in our schools, This was one of the most emotional musical experiences that I have been apart of. Now it is our job to spread this video and help to raise awareness of the job cuts that are happening and to help save the music!! Please share this video wherever you can and HELP MUSIC LIVE!!! 

Final Thoughts

Every year I leave PMEA refreshed and even more excited about music and teaching. Being surrounded by hundreds of music educators, who truly have a passion for music for two days is an absolutely amazing experience. If you have never had the opportunity to attend PMEA State Conference I urge you to attend next year. It will  be a life-changing experience!! Stay tuned for more updates and recaps based off of the sessions that I attended at PMEA 2011!!

Get excited, the annual PMEA conference is less than two weeks away and is a great way for both current and future music educators to gain professional development!! This year the conference is being held in Hershey PA at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center  from April 14th-16th. It is always an amazing experience, full of learning and networking with other music educators. The sessions cover a variety of topics including, elementary general music, conducting, music technology, music advocacy, choral techniques, tips for undergraduates, special education etc. There is something of interest for everyone at the PMEA conference. I am extremely excited for the conference this year because myself and a team of four other music education undergraduates will be live-blogging the entire conference!!

What If I Can’t Attend PMEA?

Unable to attend the PMEA state conference? Then follow along with our live-blog at futuremusiceducators.net. Each live-blogger will be attending different sessions and blogging their notes that will be available online at our landing page!! On the landing page you will find the full schedule of sessions that we will be covering. All you have to do is click on the session(s) that interest you and that will take you to the appropriate live-bloggers page. Check out my page which includes the sessions that I will be attending and live blogging!

We will be live blogging the sessions on Thursday April 14th and Friday April 15th. If you are like me you always have a million things going on at once and often forget things. From the landing page you can click on each session that you are interested in and sign up for an e-mail reminder for one day before the event starts, so you can be sure to not miss this great event!! This is a great opportunity where you can learn a lot for free. The live-bloggers want to give a special thanks to Dr. Joseph Pisano and Grove City College for making internet access possible for this event.

Choices, Choices, Choices!!!

One of the problems with conferences such as PMEA is that there are always multiple sessions you want to attend at the same time and you must decide on which one to attend. If you are not attending the conference you can jump back and forth between the different live blogs that are happening at the same time and learn a little something from each session. If you are attending the conference and can’t decide on which sessions to attend the great thing about live-blogs is that all the blogs will be up on futuremusiceducators even after the conference is over. This way you can go back and read about the sessions that you weren’t able to attend. Again this gives more opportunities for professional development as you will be able to get access to the information from all the sessions at PMEA. Feel free to leave comments or ideas on any of our live blogs as we would love to interact with you during the conference.


Along with the live blogs many of the conference attendees will be tweeting their experiences from the conference. If you are attending the conference this is a great place to share your thoughts and if not feel free to follow along. Whether you are tweeting from the conference or just following along be sure to use the hashtag #pmea11!!

The Live Blogging Team

All of the live bloggers are music education majors at Grove City College. You can find us all on Twitter and the MPLN. You can find more information about all the bloggers and our twitter names on the landing page. If you are going to the PMEA conference all the Grove City bloggers would love to meet up with you, so either send us a tweet or leave a comment here!

All of the live bloggers are extremely excited for PMEA11 and can’t wait to share this event with you. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment here or contact any of the live bloggers. It should be an amazing learning experience and I can’t wait to share what I learn with you. So check out the landing page, check out my page, sign up for an e-mail reminder, follow #pmea11 on twitter, and get excited for PMEA11!!!

The Beginning of a Journey

Many music undergraduates enter their freshman year excited to meet new people, gain some independence, be a part of higher-level ensembles, and most importantly do what they love doing, making music and teaching kids about music. Amidst all this excitement there are usually a lot of nerves wondering if they made the right decisions. Many undergraduates have days during that first semester wondering if music education is truly for them. It often seems like graduation and finally getting to teach music is so far away and not possible, but truly loving what you are doing is what often keeps us going through the tough days. Sound familiar to you? This is exactly how I felt only a short four years ago. Now, I have already finished my senior-recital, am starting student teaching, am graduating in less than four months, and getting ready to find my first teaching job. Looking back I cannot believe how incredibly fast the past four years have went. They were some of the most challenging, but best four years of my life. As I am getting ready to start student teaching in only a few days I have done a lot of reflecting on what I have learned through my undergraduate career. After looking back on the past four years I thought I would write a post giving advice to music education undergraduates based on what I learned. Below are some tips that I believe will help you to have an incredible undergraduate experience and help you become the best music educator possible. Continue reading